Part of the natural evil that permeated man’s existence

Deep Water book coverDeep Water
by Patricia Highsmith

I picked this up in a huge secondhand bookshop in Amsterdam where I was overwhelmed with choice. I always like a crime novel on holiday and this is a thriller par excellence. I don’t think Highsmith has let me down yet.

This psychological thriller seems cosy at first but with an undercurrent of something terrible coming. In the small New England town of Little Wesley, Massachusetts, there is a cocktail party under way. Local publisher Victor Van Allen is making small talk, but he is embarrassed that his wife Melinda has insisted on bringing along her current lover, Joel Nash. Vic is sure that everyone else knows the nature of Melinda and Joel’s relationship and that they all judge him for accepting it.

This is not Melinda’s first extramarital affair. She has had a string of them for the past few years and Vic didn’t mind much at first, but it is starting to bother him. So he decides to have a word with Joel before they leave the party. It just happens that an ex-lover of Melinda’s, Malcolm McRae, was murdered six months earlier and the case has not been solved. Vic decides to tell Joel that he was the murderer, to see how Joel reacts.

It’s an intriguing introduction to a character. Though the narrative is not first person, it is a very close third person that gets right into Victor Van Allen’s mind. And though it gradually becomes clear that Vic’s mind is not a comfortable place to be and that he has the potential to be capable of doing terrible things, you also sympathise with him right from the start.

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